The Society of Merchant Venturers Historical Timeline

13th century

First mention of a guild of merchants in Bristol.

1445

Guild of Mariners founded to erect chantry and almshouse for a priest and 12 poor seamen.

1467

Bristol Corporation drew up Ordinances for Guild of Merchants.

1552

Edward VI grants the first Royal Charter to the ‘Master, Wardens and Commonalty of Merchant Venturers of the City of Bristol’; Bristol merchants finance John Cabot’s voyage in the Matthew, leading to the earliest documented landing on Newfoundland.

1553

Society took over the almshouse in Marsh Street and established original Merchants’ Hall on the site of the chantry next door.

1566

Elizabeth I granted Royal Charter to the Society confirming the earlier Charter.

1595

First record of school for mariners’ children founded by Society.

1622

John Guy, first Governor of Newfoundland in 1610, becomes Master.

1631

Capt. James equipped by Society for expedition in Henrietta to seek North West Passage.

1639

Charles I granted Royal Charter to Society setting out the constitution and fixing November 10th as the date of the election of Master and Wardens.

1676

Manor of Clifton acquired.

1696

Colston’s Almshouse founded.

1708

Colston’s School founded by Edward Colston. Society appointed manager of the charity’s estates.

1737

Mathematical and Navigational School started by Society.

1754

William Vick bequeathed £1,000 to Society and directed that the interest should accumulate until the sum of £10,000 was reached and then to build a stone bridge over the Avon Gorge.

1763

Treaty of Paris. Owing to Society’s advice Labrador transferred from Quebec province to government of Newfoundland.

1807

Act of Parliament abolishes the slave trade in Britain and her colonies.

1809

Floating Harbour completed by Bristol Docks Company after pressure and assistance from the Society.

1830

Bill for bridge over Avon Gorge received Royal Assent. Vick’s legacy, now £8,700, handed over to trustees.

1832

Inaugural meeting of the Great Western Railway Company held in Merchants’ Hall. Much supported by Society and its members.

1861

Wharfage lease relinquished by Society after 309 years and management of pilots relinquished after 249 years.

1864

Clifton Suspension Bridge over Avon Gorge finally opened.

1885

Bristol Trade and Mining School becomes known as Merchant Venturers’ School.

1891

Colston’s Girls’ School founded.

1909

Bristol University receives its Charter. Merchant Venturers’ Technical College engineering department becomes Faculty of Engineering.

1922

St. Monica Trust formed.

1925

St. Monica Home of Rest opened in Cote Lane site.

1940

Merchants’ Hall destroyed during the Blitz.

1945

Fern House, Clifton Down acquired as temporary Hall.

1953

Fern and Auckland House, Clifton Down joined together to become the new Merchants’ Hall.

1989

Queen Elizabeth II granted Charter to the Society increasing the size of the Standing Committee to 15.

1991

Through merger, Colston’s School became co-educational as Colstons Collegiate School.

2003

A new 60-bed care home, the Garden House, is added to the original nursing home at the Cote Lane HQ of the St Monica Trust.

2003

Westbury Fields retirement village opened by St Monica Trust.

2006

Signing of Academy Funding Agreement for the establishment of Merchants’ Academy in Withywood.

2007

Society of Merchant Venturers joins the Lord Mayor of Bristol and other civic representatives in signing a statement regretting Bristol’s role in the slave trade.

2008

Merchants’ Academy opens (formerly Withywood Community School); Colston’s Girls’ School becomes an academy and Colston’s Girls’ School Trust is established.

2009

Katherine House, a purpose-built retirement home for older people opens in the grounds of Cote House in Westbury-on-Trym; St Monica Trust opens Sandford Station Retirement Village.

2012

The Dolphin School opens and joins CGS Trust.

2013

The Kingfisher School joins CGS Trust; Bristol & Bath Regional Capital is launched.

2015

Fairlawn Primary School opens and, with Bannerman Road Community Academy, joins CGS Trust.

2016

The Cote Charity opens Griffiths House; Barton Hill Academy joins CGS Trust; Merchants’ Academy Trust is established; Venturers’ Academy opens and is granted approval for a new-build, purpose-built school, due to be completed in 2019.

2017

Venturers Trust is established, combining the schools from Merchants’ Academy Trust and CGS Trust; St Monica Trust opens The Chocolate Quarter in Keynsham.